By Fakhar Alam
NATHIAGALI, Jun 08 (APP):Pakistan has moved six points up in the International Travel and Tourism Development Index as per the report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The report shows that the country is heading in the right direction in tourism industry as its beautiful landscapes have attracted both the local and international communities.
Following severe heat waves in plains districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the country, the tourists have thronged to Nathiagali and Ayubia to spend sometimes in its soothing environment.
The hide and seek between the sun and clouds with moderate to erratic rainfalls over the snow-clad Mukeshpuri (9,200 feet) and Miranjani (9,816feet) on western Himalaya hills near Nathiagali in Abbottabad take tourists into a state of ecstasy.
At weekend, Nathiagali and Ayubia are flooded with tourists, trekkers and adventure sports enthusiasts enjoying its breathtaking natural beauty, spectacular landscapes, waterfalls, chairlift ride and colonial era walking trails amid great fun and laughter.
Dongagali-Ayubia, Nathiagali-Ayubia and Mukeshpuri Top are the most frequented site of tourists with ride on horses, camels and photography.
“Nathiagali and Ayubia are my favorite hill stations due to its diverse natural and mountainous beauty, chairlift and colonial era walking trails,’” said Haider Zaman, (55), a resident of Wapda Town Peshawar while talking to APP at Nathiagali.
“I have visited many tourists’ resorts in Pakistan but the gripping natural beauty of Nathiagali and Ayubia chairlift have impressed me immensely,” he said.
However, a visitor could be disappointed to see garbage and polythene bags thrown at open places at these picturesque sites,” he said, adding Kaghan Development Authority (KDA), Wildlife Department and District Administration were responsible to ensure and maintain its cleanliness and make it pollution-free.
He said as per international practice, vehicles are parked outside of the chairlift’s premises to protect its ecology from plastic pollution. He suggested construction of parking areas and installation of dusts bins to protect it from plastic pollution.
Saad Khan, Spokesman, Culture and Tourism Authority (C&TA) told APP that 10 camping pods were established at Thandyani Abbottabad, Sharan Naran Manshera, Bishigram and Gabin Jabba Swat, Yakhtangi Shangla, Sheikh Badin Lakki Marwat, Mahaban and Shaheed e Sar Buner, Bamburat Kalash Chitral and Alai Batagram to address accommodation issue.
He said 10 more new camping pods would be established at Jarogo Asbshar, Sulatar Swat, Lashkargas Broghal and Surlaspur Shandur Upper Chitral, Kumrat Upper Dir, Kalam, Lilowani and Alpuri Shangla, Samani top Hangu/Orakzai, Larham Top Lower Dir and Bin Shahi Lower Dir. He said seven sites in merged districts were identified for campings pods, picnic spots, excess roads and rest areas.
Malakand and Hazara divisions have attracted over 1.6 million tourists during last Eidul Fitr holidays. Approximately,1.2 million tourists including 45,000 had visited Buner, 58,000 by Chitral Lower, 1,25,000 by Dir Upper’s Kumrat, 1,45,000 by Dir Lower, eight lakh by Swat and three lakh by Galiyat. Resultantly, Rs300 million revenue was generated only from Naran, Kaghan and Kurmat valleys.
Muhammad Ali Syed, General Manager, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Culture and Tourism Authority told APP that waterfalls of Lamchar, Sajkot, Noori, Chajjian Haripur, Jarogo Swat, Lanchar Dir and Umbrella Abbottabad would be developed on modern lines to promote ecotourism.
Tourist home stay loan project is being launched with an assistance of the Bank of Khyber to financially support local people to build a guest room for tourists’ stay, said Saad Khan. He said the project would help generate employment opportunities for local population of tourists areas.
Saad Khan said that 182 constables of the newly raised tourism police were deployed in Swat, Chitral, Manshera and Abbottabad. He said development of four historical colonial era tacks were in pipelines including Thandyani-Nathiagali having 8, 200 feet height, 40km length and 1500 old trees belt, Thandyani-Biringali track, Dagri Bangla-Meera Jani-Nathiagali track and Kaghan- Mahnoor track starting from Shinkyari to Kund Bangla and onward to Shaheed Pani-Nadi Bangla to Musa Ka Musallah. The rest areas would be developed on these tracks besides construction of washrooms and others facilities for tourists.
Tauseef Khalid, Project Director, KP Integrated Tourism Development Project told APP that four integrated tourism zones (ITZs) would be developed at Mankiyal Swat, Thandyani Abbottabad, Ganol Manshera and Madaskhast Lower Chitral to promote sustainable tourism. He said these ITZs would be constructed with financial assistance of World Bank of USD70 million loan grant and its feasibility studies and master planning in final stages. He said ITZs would be linked with Hazara and Swat Motorways through approach roads. About 44 MoUs worth USD 8 billion was signed between different departments of KP government and international firms during Dubai Expo 2022.
Sports theme park would be constructed on 400 kanal land at Hund in Swabi district for which MoU has already been signed. As result of the Federal and KP Government’s pro-tourism policies, he said that Pakistan has made a big jump by improving sixth place ie 83rd from 89th in the International Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI), which was a great honour for Pakistan. “Pakistan is among the countries in Asia pacific region, which has significantly improved its tourism ranking since 2019,” he added.
Tauseef Khalid said the World Economic Forum latest edition of the TTDI includes 117 countries based on a set of factors and policies for promotion of a stable and sustainable tourism.
Saad Khan said recreational spots in premises of five small dams including Tanda Kohat, Kundal dam Swabi, Chatri dam Haripur, Jalozai dam Nowshera and Jangza dam in Abbottabad district would be developed. Likewise, three new ski resorts in Kaghan, Chitral and Swat would be established besides four new hill stations including two in Kaghan, one each in Chitral and Abbottabad.
Under Tourist Facilitation Hub (TFH) project, he said that 69 archeological signboards in Mardan,102 signboards were installed on Swat motorway, 93 boards in Swat and 48 boards in DI Khan. RESCUE 1122 stations were setup at Ayubia, Thandiyani, Kewai, Kalash and Kumrat having facilities of two ambulances, one firefighting vehicle and emergency equipment. Four more tourism authorities are being established at Kalash, Kalam, Kumrat and Naran. He said first ever tourism helpline 1422 was made operational providing round the clock service to people.